Monday, November 3, 2008
Every now and then, I read an article from a few industry analysts / pundits for the shear sake of entertainment. The work from Rob Enderle surely fits into that category. Rob’s latest article, “It’s Dangerous to Assume People Are Stupid”, is just begging for a counter point. This article will dissect Rob’s arguments and provide another point of view from someone who isn’t on Microsoft’s payroll.
Rob describes himself as “the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.“ Of course, it should be noted that the Enderle Group consists of himself and his wife. It should also be noted that Rob prominently sites Microsoft as a client. It should also be noted that Microsoft has a history of astroturfing. (paying bloggers to send a particular message). Likewise, with all of this in perspective, it’s not hard to understand why Rob writes the rubbish that he does. I don’t doubt there is financial incentive for him. However, in the process, the name Rob Enderle, is synonymous with ignorant boob in every technical forum I’ve encountered.
Back to the article…
“The well-executed Mac vs. Windows ads, while at least funny and entertaining, drifted from solid hits to outright hypocrisy as Vista was improved and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) seemed unable to remember its own advantages. (Hint: As a percentage, Apple’s ratio of marketing dollars to development dollars leads the industry.)”
Yes, Apple has been poking a little fun at Microsoft with it’s “get a Mac” ad campaign. Throughout the article, Enderle seems to almost take a personal offense to this ad campaign, but that’s another topic. It’s also worth noting that Apple spreads it’s advertising across multiple product lines including the iPhone, iPod, etc. It’s also worth noting that Microsoft just launched a highly public $300 million advertising campaign in an attempt to boost the company’s public perception.
Let’s be honest here… yes, Apple has certainly capitalized off of the negative perception Vista has earned in the market place. Did Apple create that perception? No. Is Apple responsible for poor Vista product reviews? No. Is Apple responsible for the relatively poor Vista user experience many have written about? No. Is Apple feeding the fire a little bit? Yes.
“Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) just announced Windows 7, and as a pre-beta product, it is very impressive, largely because Apple’s negative campaign against Windows Vista focused Microsoft more than I’ve ever seen a complex company focused. There is a rule here in the Silicon Valley, and that is that focusing Microsoft on you generally ends badly — and Microsoft actually hasn’t been focused on Apple since the early 90s.”
Windows 7 may or may not be impressive. I certainly don’t know one way or the other beyond what’s available on the internet. I doubt Enderle does either. I do know that any company can put on a technology demonstration that will impress a captive audience. Apple does that at Macworld and WWDC events. Why would anyone expect Microsoft’s demonstration of Windows 7 at PDC to not be impressive? Of course, Enderle comments on an unfinished product don’t exactly carry much weight because:
- He’s not technical enough to even comment on products of this nature in anything but the most vague suggestions (more on that latter).
- Enderle’s allegiance with Microsoft precludes him from offering any sort of unbiased opinion.
I’m not going to comment on the merits of Windows 7 just yet as I don’t feel qualified to at this point. However, right now, the best thing Windows 7 has going for it is that it’s not Vista.
I also find it funny that he attributes Microsoft’s “focus” to Apple’s “negative ad campaign”. Honestly, I think that’s giving Apple’s influence too much credit. Yes, Apple has gained some market share recently, but that’s as much to do with Apple’s success as it is with Microsoft’s failures. I’d attribute any recent focus Microsoft is seeing to the basic realities that the enterprise market has largely refused to accept Vista “as is”. To be fair, there may be several valid reasons for that and not all of them have to do with the quality of Vista. However, I think Apple is the least of Microsoft’s concerns these days. Regardless of whether Vista is lousy, great or somewhere in between, the Vista project would seem to have been mismanaged at Microsoft. When you consider the years and billions of dollars that went into the development of the product, most would question what happened. When you combine that with the multiple product delays along with the major feature cuts, it’s clear the Vista/Longhorn project was mismanaged.
What I find even funnier is the implied threat Endrle speaks of. What could Microsoft possibly do to Apple? Make a better Windows product? If that’s the case, then the majority of computer users should profusely thank Apple. Microsoft could also pull MS Office for Apple, but again… so what. This threat would have been a bigger deal 10 years ago when that actually meant something. These days, with OpenOffice and even iWork and to some degree, even Google docs as competitors, this threat doesn’t mean so much. Combine that with the fact that Microsoft dropped VBScript support for Office 2008 on the Mac and the competing products start to look good. Very good indeed. I think Apple knows this. Further, Office 2008 seems to be very profitable for Microsoft, so I doubt this is even a consideration.
“However, Windows 7 attacks Apple’s historic inability to interoperate, successfully partner and work in the cloud — all of which suggest, if Microsoft executes, it will be the superior product. You can fix a product, but it is really hard to change the DNA of a company, and Apple has historically been its own worst enemy. This last is also true of Microsoft, and we’ll get to that in a moment.”
Enderle’s theory is that if Windows 7 works with “the cloud” better than Snow Leopard, Microsoft will therefore have a better product. Huh? Is that now the defining criteria for an entire operating system? Since when?
Then next sentence is just ridiculous. “You can fix a product, but it is really hard to change the DNA of a company”. He claims that Apple is its own worst enemy then goes on to say the same about Microsoft. Which begs the question… What exactly is your point Rob?
“This also integrates with Microsoft Silverlight advancements showcased at the Professional Developers Conference by the BBC, which will allow people to start watching a TV show or movie on their TV or PC, and finish watching it on a laptop or compliant smartphone, “
The last time I checked, anyone with iTunes (read: mostly everybody) installed can do the same… rent a movie, watch on their computer, TV (through Apple TV) or off on a portable device like the iPod or iPhone. This is nothing new and you don’t need Silverlight to do it. Isn’t it great to play catch up, then act is if this concept was something new?
“Finally, Apple believes that only Apple should have the freedom to choose; customers have to accept Apple’s choice, it’s partially the result of Apple’s “lock in” policy, an historic problem for Microsoft as well.”
No Rob, Apple like any other company wants to control and profit from as much of the pie as they can. If a company is sharing a bigger piece of the pie, it’s because they don’t have a choice. As for vendor lock in, guess what Rob, if you’re discussing DRM based material, you’re going to have vendor lock in to some degree no matter what. Is the vendor lock-in somehow better because you’re locked into a Microsoft solution as opposed to an Apple solution? I think not. Sorry, but Windows 7 will be no different on that respect.
“One sustaining advantage that the Mac platform has is the ease in which Mac users can move from an old Mac to a new one. While migrating from Windows to a Mac is about as ugly as you can get, once on the Mac the process is comparatively painless. This is generally why Apple enjoys a higher customer churn rate than any other PC vendor, and it contributes to their higher margins and customer loyalty .”
Yes, moving from an old Mac to a new one is painless. In fact, with Apple’s migration assistant, it’s completely painless. However, migrating from Windows to a Mac generally isn’t difficult at all. For starters, Apple makes it clear that they will do that for you at the genius bar at an Apple store if you’d like. How difficult is that? For most people, it’s as simple as migrating bookmarks, address books and some documents in the “My Documents” folder. That’s about it. In the worst case, a user might do Boot Camp and dual boot or install a virtual Windows machine like Parallels or VMware’s Fusion product. Again, in most cases that can easily bet setup for you in advance. It’s not much more difficult than from moving from XP to Vista.
“The Democratic Party and Microsoft have always been larger but less focused than their counterparts. For the Republicans or Apple to actually fix their competitors’ focus problems will likely be seen, in hindsight, as a really stupid thing to do.”
Seriously, it’s pretty lame to assign commercial companies to specific political parties. Why bring politics into this discussion? One could easily say Enderle is just making an analogy, but it seems to me that he’s trying to ride on the momentum of a particular political party and associates the faults of another party with Apple as a company.
“Apple would have been better off to fix its crappy laptop keyboards (seriously — compare a ThinkPad and MacBook keyboard) and figure out how to do touchscreens on PCs (multi-touch track pads are just lame compared to things like the iPhone and TouchSmart).”
I tend to prefer the more traditional keyboards as well, but not enough to make a big deal about it. Really, if you don’t like something like a keyboard or a mouse, these are things that are very easily replaced. The same isn’t true for an operating system (I can almost hear the Linux fanatics now taking issue with this one). I’m guessing Enderle has never actually used a multi-touch trackpad on a recent Mac. They are very cool and actually make laptops more efficient and ergonomic then most desktop PCs. The scrolling text with two fingers is cool. The zooming of text or pictures with a pinch is very nice. Of course, Apple has done much more with 3 and 4 finger gestures, but this is clearly the future.
By comparison, my prediction is that “TouchSmart” will go nowhere in any real practical sense. Sure, it makes for a nice technology demonstration and possibly for a nice kiosk somewhere. However, the ergonomics of constantly touching and reaching across a large screen is simply flawed. If you doubt what I’m saying, imagine your computer has touch screen capabilities and try manipulating everything with your hands and see how long it takes before it becomes annoying. Really, touch screens makes sense for something like an iPhone or a very small tablet like device. For large screen computers, this will be nothing but cumbersome. Clearly, Apple has been a couple years ahead with this type of technology. If they thought it would be a must have feature, it would have already been shipped with Leopard much less the upcoming Snow Leopard. For special applications, it might be nice. For generally computing as we know it today, touch screen interfaces will be ergonomically inferior to mouse and trackpad gestures. Remember, you heard it hear first!
Honestly, I can say that nothing Rob Enderle says is ever surprising. I’ve never considered his articles as anything more than a shill for Microsoft’s marketing campaign. Considering Microsoft’s established history of astroturfing and paying for comments in the media along with Enderle’s acknowledged professional relationship with Microsoft, I find it odd when people actually quote is comments or articles in order to somehow make a point. If anything, quoting Rob Enderle to support your position works against you within the technical community. Sadly, Enderle is often quoted in articles intended for the larger, non-technical community.
Finally, I’m not aware of any “industry analyst” (and I use that term lightly) that has been wrong more often or even as a percentage than Rob Enderle.
A simple Google search turns up a few good examples of what others think of Rob. For further reading (in no particular order), feel free to visit a few of the links below. Enjoy!